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Originally published Monday, November 8, 2010 at 10:03 PM

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Sounders FC looks toward 2011

After a disappointing loss to Los Angeles in the Western Conference semifinals, Seattle already has begun to look at how it can improve for 2011.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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CARSON, Calif. — Sounders FC general manager Adrian Hanauer said he would only allow himself a couple of hours to digest Sunday's season-ending playoff loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy — then it's back to work.

And Year 3 for the young franchise started Monday.

Hanauer said the offseason tasks include, among others: the upcoming expansion draft, Seattle's invitational combine for top college prospects, the MLS combine and subsequent SuperDraft, scouting international players and contract negotiations with current Sounders.

A disappointing defeat in the Western Conference semifinals for a second-straight season, he said, will only add more motivation to get better. Coach Sigi Schmid is already well into assessment mode to improve the roster for 2011.

"For me it's already a process of deciding, 'OK, these are the nucleus pieces we can build with and this is where we need to get a little bit better,' " said Schmid, who credited inexperience and immaturity for the early playoff exit.

Added Hanauer: "I think between the ownership and coaching we know some of the things we may need to tweak a little bit to continue to get better."

So who will be around next season?

While details on player contracts are limited, designated players Blaise Nkufo and Alvaro Fernandez are each believed to be under contract through 2011. Goalkeeper and captain Kasey Keller said he expects to be back as he works out a new deal with Hanauer.

The future of young stars Fredy Montero and Steve Zakuani is more uncertain, as each could have opportunities to play in Europe. Zakuani exacerbated that speculation Sunday night. When asked if his future is in Seattle, he responded: "We'll see what happens next year."

Montero has been noncommittal about next season in recent weeks while focusing on the playoffs.

Schmid, currently with his third MLS team, is more sure about what he wants. He told the Times last month that he could see himself coaching Sounders FC until he retires.

"I love it here," he said. "I love the city. I love the team. I love my ownership group. I love the fans. I don't mean to be redundant, but that's how I feel. For me this is a place to stay and finish and coach for a long, long time. This would be ideal for me. I'd love to do that, but ownership has to decide what works for them.

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"In regards to this being a destination type of job, there are not many things I could think of that I would leave this for. I'll be here as long as they'll have me. I'd love to stay around because it's a very special place to coach. The people have been extremely supportive of the team and myself. I couldn't think of a better place."

Hanauer said season-ticket renewals are on par with last year but it is too early to determine if Qwest Field's capacity for 2011 Sounders FC games will be increased.

"And we do have a waiting list," he said. "We haven't dug into that yet."

Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or jmayers@seattletimes.com

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